I have touched on dieting in a number of ways on my social platforms but today I wanted to really focus on restrictive dieting. This is something I see and hear a lot and has many negative health implications.
Naturally I believe that with any diet there is going to be a level of ‘restriction’ and therefore it perhaps isn’t the best word to use. We may choose to restrict the number of calories we consume, or the time of day we eat, or the types of food we choose. All of these in MODERATION can be an effective way to diet and lose weight. However, the type of restriction I want to talk about today are those diets where you go extremely low on calories, you cut out multiple major food groups or you may substitute foods for alternative options such as shakes or juices. It’s these types of diets that in my opinion can lead to very destructive behaviours and also have some real negative health implications on the body.
To quickly highlight on some of these, firstly when we reduce our calories to an extremely low level, we put our body under a lot of strain to continue to run as it should with less energy to be able to do so. This can lead to a constant feeling of hunger and exhaustion. It’s like asking our car to take a long journey with no fuel in its tank, in time it will just stop. Secondly what you generally find with these extremely low-calorie diets is that we restrict multiple different foods. You may visualise a diet of skipping breakfast and eating bowls of salad leaves for lunch and dinner, then still expecting our body to function adequately! The other type of diet similar to this of course is substituting foods for alternatives like ‘diet shakes’ or juices. I personally believe that there is absolutely NO REASON to swap your meals for drinks and I would always advise against this myself.
When we choose to partake in these diets, especially over a long period of time, there are a number of health implications to consider. Firstly, we can become deficient in a number of different nutrients due to the restriction of certain foods groups and lack of variety in our diet. This may play out in a number of ways including effecting our appearance and body structure. We may begin to notice our skin getting worse, poor nail quality and our hair becoming brittle and dry. We will also feel extremely lethargic making every day tasks feel a lot harder than they should. We may find we feel the need to sleep more as our body goes into a type of preservation mode. With our body not receiving adequate calories and nutrients we will also begin to see a loss in muscle mass and a weakening of our bones. For women especially, dropping calories and weight significantly can cause disruption in our monthly cycles. If sustained over time this may lead to amenorrhea (a lack of menstruation). Of course, it is quite obvious that with a lower energy and nutrient profile our immune system will be lowered, making us more vulnerable to illness. Alongside all of this we will experience massive fluctuations in our mood which can affect both ourselves and others around us. Finally, and probably my most important point is that with these types of diets we create a negative relationship with food. This relationship can continue far beyond the completion of your diet and can lead to years of food avoidance, yo-yo dieting and even disordered eating.
The problem is that all of us want a quick fix and overnight results, which I believe is partly down to the instant gratification society we live in these days. I truly believe that dieting should be a slow and sustainable process, which promotes positive relationships with food, educating and allowing people to fully understand what they are putting into their body and why. We only get one body in this life, so we should look after it in the in the best way we can.
Before you begin any diet ask yourself these questions:
- Am I working off a quick fix model or could I sustain this diet over time?
- Does this diet include all the major food groups and is there enough variety?
- How will this diet make me feel both mentally and physically?
- Have I tried something similar before and how has it made me feel/did it work over time?
- Have I considered other options before beginning this diet/have I sought expert advice before I begin?
My plea to you all is to really consider what you are asking your body to do before you begin a diet. Be realistic with your goals, be sustainable and consistent with your eating, understand what you are putting into your body and why and remember these things take time.
Anyone struggling my inbox is always open!
Lots of love